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What does this mean

I am looking at the following vehicle. However, I want to know the expense involved to fix the one problem listed . . . NEEDS COMPUTER PROGRAMMING. The ad is:
1998 BMW 528i, Leather, Heated Seats, Needs Computer Programming,
Automatic, 6 Cylinder, 2.8L, 158K Miles, Engine is good, Power Windows, Dual Power Seats, Power Door Locks, Power Mirror,
Nice leather Interior, Moon Roof, Cruise Control, Heated Seats, Ice Cold A/C, Heat…All digital
Fully loaded, ---- Clean Title, Interior & Exterior are in great condition,
Aluminum Wheels, ABS Brakes, Traction Control, Telescoping Wheels,
Nice CD player, Cassette, AM/FM Stereo - $1500

Should I run or should I check into it?

Start running and don’t look back. A 1998 BMW with 158K in “running condition” is a poor choice because it’s a money pit.

If the computer programming was not a big deal the seller would have it done. Call a BMW dealer for more info as the only place that can do the programming is a BMW dealer.

Run away. Fast.
Use the money to play one-armed bandits instead. Your odds of getting value for your dollar will be far better.

Unless you’re a mechanic never buy a car that doesn’t run and drive. Why would the computer need to be programmed?

This could be a good deal if you have a 1998 528i and need a parts car. If you are looking to turn this non-running car that needs “computer programming” into a daily driver, it’s probably not a good idea. As the saying goes, if you have to ask…

Just for hoots, you could contact them, ask if it runs well, and if you can take it for a test drive.

They gave a fairly detailed description of all of the bells and whistles but not one word about whether it even runs or not. “Engine good” doesn’t mean a whole lot.

“Needs computer programming” could be an indirect way of saying the engine will not start, it must be towed, and don’t call me later if there’s a huge problem. :wink:

I like how the ad quickly dispenses with the vaguely disturbing news about the computer and moves on to all the cosmetic/comfort ‘essentials.’ Surprised there wasn’t something about the color too. I recall when selling a car a few years ago, the first question asked by 99% of the callers was “What color is it?”

I own a fleet of older BMWs, but like others have suggested, I could not recommend this car for anyone other than a BMW hobbyist like me. As for the computer programming, this car has only one computer that can be programmed, and that is the engine control computer. Either someone has put in a junk yard computer that doesn’t quite match the car, or someone reprogrammed the computer with aftermarket “performance” programming that did not work, or is not street legal so it won’t pass the state emissions test. Either scenario is scary because you don’t know what other changes have been made. Perhaps this is not the original engine.

The dealer is going to be hesitant to re-flash (reprogram) the computer if they don’t know the history of why it needs it. They certainly won’t guarantee success, and they will charge a couple of hundred at least.

I will add that another possibility is that the reprogrammed computer caused the engine/transmission to function outside their normal design parameters for an extended period.

I suppose that as long as the driver didn’t routinely hit the redline, things could be fine – but would you want to drive a car whose transmission had been reprogrammed to delay shifts and run at 75% of redline for most of the miles it’s driven?

This may not be how engines are typically “reprogrammed” for performance; I don’t really have experience with this sort of thing. But the thing is, you simply don’t know what changes were programmed, and what their effects might be on the long-term health of the engine and transmission.